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Spotlight on Filippo Inzaghi
4.10 || scharatz

AUTHOR: Lo Scrivano

When Milan gave Juventus $25 million plus promising youngster Cristiano Zenoni for a supposedly "over-the-hill" 28-year old striker named Filippo Inzaghi last summer, few thought that they had made a smart deal. But for a man who is despised by fans not only outside his nation, but also within, Inzaghi has an astonishingly unparalleled goal-scoring record.

Born in Piacenza in 1973, this scrawny kid had limited skill, but made up with a nose for goal analogous only to a bloodthirsty hound. Pippo began his career with his city's club, Piacenza Calcio as an 18-year old in Serie B. However, after appearing in only two games in his debut season on the big stage, Inzaghi was loaned out to Serie C1 side Leffe. That first season with Leffe, Pippo scored 13 times in 21 games, thus setting the ball rolling for what would be a goal-scoring spree that would seemingly never see an end.

The years following that would see Pippo move to Hellas Verona, back to Piacenza, to Parma and finally to Atalanta, where he would at long last establish himself as a recognized marksman. Inzaghi's league-leading 24 strikes in 33 games for Atalanta alongside the great Gianluigi Lentini ensured that Pippo would be snapped up by Italy's most successful club and then Italian Champion, Juventus. Amazingly, but in retrospect not surprisingly, Inzaghi had kept up an extremely healthy strike rate during his six years of professional football. He had scored 67 times in 144 games for his teams from 1991 to 1997.

Inzaghi was now the pride of the Delle Alpi. Along with Alessandro Del Piero, Inzaghi would form the devastating duo that would ravage Serie A defences, leading Juventus to their 24th Scudetto, in a timely Centenary year. However, that's where Inzaghi's luck ran out. He would win no more silverware with the "Old Lady" and although he kept finding the back of the net while his more eminent colleague, Del Piero, faded away, Inzaghi would never be completely appreciated.

Filippo Inzaghi became a picture of hate across Europe. The millions of Juve-haters also became Inzaghi-haters. They hated him because he made it look so simple. He would never appear to try hard or strike from distance. He was flagged offside a dozen times. Yet, he would always be there…at the right place…. at the right time…. to bury that decisive goal. His lean frame would be manhandled by much bigger defenders and Pippo gained a reputation as a diver. He surely didn't make goal scoring look pretty, but what Inzaghi did do was make it look easy. That is what perhaps angered his critics the most and this was epitomized by a certain Jaap Stam who couldn't come to terms with Inzaghi's goals against Manchester United in the Champions League. Stam went on to slam the Italian rather deplorably in his autobiography.

However, by now Pippo had become "Superpippo". His astonishing European record was adding to his glittering domestic career. But his days in Turin were numbered. A youthful David Trezeguet arrived at the Bianconeri camp and benched Inzaghi. Inzaghi was to have a long, long wait away from the pitch. Before Milan snapped him up in the summer of 2001, Inzaghi would help himself to another 11 goals in scattered appearances at Juve. But, it was to be a rather feeble end to a productive career at the club.

Milan signed Inzaghi in the hope of forming a lethal partnership with Andriy Shevchenko. But, this time Inzaghi would suffer a serious knee injury that would keep him out for almost half the season. However, once he returned, there would be no looking back. Superpippo returned to the field in January and has never stopped scoring. He powered Milan past Bologna, Lazio and Chievo with his goals (10 in 20 games) and helped them finish fourth in his debut season.

Now, part of a reinforced Milan side, a fully fit Pippo is in the best form of his life. Barely a couple of months into the season, Inzaghi has scored 12 times in 8 games! He leads the Champions League scorers chart with an absolutely stunning seven goals in three games including two braces and a hat trick. What's more…. this amazing flurry of goals has seen him become the leading Italian goal scorer in European competition history, overcoming Inter Milan forward Alessandro Altobelli's record of 39 strikes.

139 League goals, 42 European goals, 45 International goals and probably hundreds of friendly competition goals later, Pippo Inzaghi finally seems to be getting the credit he deserves. The passionate AC Milan forward is now in the tail end of his career and it appears that he has finally appeased the Lords and silenced his critics. Praise is all you hear after his heroics that downed Deportivo in Spain and Bayern in Germany.

In Milan, Superpippo Inzaghi has found a home, one where he wishes to remain till retirement. But, until then, he seems to insist on stabbing his opponents by putting away that football into the back of the net with the dreamlike efficiency that he is now known for.

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